Thu, 18 Jul 2019

Canada is set to announce it will extend its 200-member military training mission in Ukraine, Reuters reports, citing a source directly familiar with the matter.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan are scheduled to hold a news conference on March 18.

'[The subject of the news conference] is the Ukraine extension,' the source said, according to Reuters.

No additional trainers are expected to be sent to the country, the source added.

A spokeswoman for the defense minister declined to comment. Representatives for Freeland could not immediately be reached.

Canada first sent troops to Ukraine in 2015, and they were scheduled to pull out at the end of March.

But political and military sources said that, given continuing tensions between Ukraine and Russia, it was necessary for the mission to be extended.

In December 2018, Freeland said that Russia's 'illegal annexation of Crimea, its direct involvement in the conflict in [eastern Ukraine], and now its illegal actions targeting Ukrainian sailors and vessels...cannot and must not be accepted by the international community.'

On March 15, the United States, together with the European Union and Canada, imposed new sanctions on more than a dozen Russian officials and businesses in response to the country's 'continued aggression in Ukraine.'

Ukrainian government forces have been fighting against Russia-backed separatists in Ukraines eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk since April 2014 in a conflict that has killed some 13,000 people -- a quarter of them civilians.

Canadian trainers are part of a larger mission that involves the United States, Britain, Lithuania, Poland, and Sweden. The Canadian mission is based in western Ukraine, a long distance from the regular clashes between Ukrainian soldiers and Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country.

In November 2018, Russia captured three Ukrainian ships and their 24 crew members near the Kerch Strait, which links the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The 24 Ukrainian sailors are still being held by Moscow.

During a trip to Sevastopol on March 18, which Russian officials have proclaimed as the Day of Crimea's Reunification With Russia, President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to take part in a ceremony opening a new power station, the Kremlin said.

With reporting by Reuters RFE/RL

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